The Bengal cat’s ancestor – The Asian Leopard Cat
The Bengal is a hybrid named after the scientific name for its beautiful wild ancestor, the Felis Bengalensis or Asian Leopard Cat (ALC).
The Asian Leopard Cat is a small forest cat found in Asia, India, China, and Korea. Exact size and weight varies among the 10 subspecies but averages between 7 to 15 lbs. and 25 to 32 inches in length. All subspecies have a spotted or ringed tail, with a black tail tip, four black bands running from the forehead to the back of the neck, breaking up into elongated spots on the neck and shoulders, often forming a ” broken necklace”. The round black ears have ocelli, ‘night eyes’ on the back, and all cats have a white underside, throat and cheek-flashes. The underparts are spotted on the white background. The body markings can be solid or rosetted.
History of the Bengal cat
The first mention of an ALC/domestic crossbreed was by Harrison Weir in “Our Cats and All About Them” back in 1889. Then in 1941, Cat Fancy Magazine records an attempt to create a miniature leopard in Japan. Jean Mill produced a second generation foundation (F2) in the 1960s and in the 1970’s, Dr. Willard Centerwall at Loyola University in Louisiana produced some foundation cats during his investigation of the ALCs natural immunity to feline leukemia. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that a deliberate attempt was made to create the Bengal breed, by Jean Mill. She acquired some of the Centerwall foundation kittens and later registered them with TICA. Elizabeth and Greg Kent followed with an ALC/Egyptian Mau line. They were first registered as “leopardettes” and later as Bengals. Bengals began their rise to popularity in the show halls during the 1990s and 2000s. They are currently shown in a few different cat associations, but the main ones are TICA and FIFE.
Foundation to SBT
The first breeding of an Asian Leopard Cat to an approved domestic cat produces a generation called an F1. The second breeding produces an F2, then an F3 and F4 (foundation cats) and finally an F5, also known as an SBT or Stud Book Tradition. All Bengals 5 generations or more away from the ALC are SBT Bengals which can be accepted to compete for championship titles at cat shows. All of the Bengals we raise are SBTs.
By 1986, the first Bengal Breed Standard was adopted by The International Cat Association (TICA). Bengal breeders have modified and worked diligently on perfecting the Bengal breed ever since then to make the Bengal what it is today. Bengals are recognized for championship competition by The International Cat Association(TICA), American Cat Fancier Association (ACFA) and other international cat societies. View the TICA Breed Standard.
Today’s Bengals are medium to large cats with long muscular bodies. Their hind legs are slightly longer than their front legs which results in a slinky leopard like walk. The head is broad modified wedge, which is longer than wide, with small ears & pronounced whisker pads. Eyes are black rimmed & almond shaped. The tail is thick, tapering to a black tip(except for snows). The coat is thick, beautifully sleek & soft feels more like a pelt than fur. The belly is whited & should also have spots. Their striking patterns and elegant stride remind us of a much larger wild cat, but they are a fully domesticated breed with the most amiable of personalities.
Colors and Patterns
Bengal cats come in many colors and may be marked with rosettes, marble, spotted or a combination of spotted with marble. The two Bengal patterns accepted for show are: spotted and marbled and three main colors accepted for competition are: brown, silver and snow. The breed standard goes into what is desirable. Most people refer to the white spotted and marbled Bengals as snows, because they are reminiscent of the big Snow Leopards, but they are more accurately referred to as seals(seal lynx, seal mink and seal sepia.) Here is a link to more information on the snows. Two interesting points to note are that our silvers are primarily charcoal silvers(see Eddie), which are accepted for show but are not distinguished as a separate color and that some cats are both silver and snows.
Glitter: Many Bengal cats have a trait known as glitter. Although very desirable, it is believed that this is a domestic trait. It is more prevalent on non-ticked coats and looks as if a handful of gold has been sprinkled over the coat of a brown Bengal or silver over a silver Bengal. Glitter on a snow looks like white sparkles.
Bengals are intelligent, active, energetic cats. They are agile, enthusiastic, high climbers. They love water and are fairly talkative with a distinctive voice(check out our blog post “What is my cat talking about”). It is not uncommon to have a Bengal join you in the shower.
They are highly social and need interaction, a climbing tree and lots of toys. They are very loving and super social and make perfect companions for other pets.
They can be mischievous: opening drawers and doors and getting into things, but it really just part of their charm. One of our queens goes to the toy drawer opens it and delivers all of the toys to her newborns. Another girl we have runs off with little plastic baggies, so she is not allowed to “help” assemble things. Anything on the floor is fair game for a soccer match.
They are right at home with a family or someone who spends a lot of time at home. Bengals are perfectly suited to be therapy animals. They are also easily trained to do things like play fetch or walk on a leash.
Check out one of our FB friends ROLEX HOWARD (He is an Eddie kitten.) He has been featured in many of Ryan’s videos fetching and doing all sorts of other things.